By Churchill Okonkwo
Whoever said ugliness is only skin deep should take another look at Nigeria from the rooftop of Osborne Towers in Ikoyi. Even if you cannot see Flat 7B Dash-dash, I know you can see the ugly suburb in Kaduna where former NNPC Group Managing Director hid millions of dollars as his neighbors starved to death.
The ugliness has replaced the electrons that should be moving between atoms to generate electricity in our cables. It has replaced the unity we used to enjoy in our diversity.
The fluid nature of ethnic diversity is a good measure for monitoring a broken and dysfunctional system. In Nigeria, it is in this fluid diversity that the mutual assumptions which determine political attitudes have their basis. Perhaps it is because cultural identity has been twisted, cleansed, polished and presented to depressed Nigerians that it is so powerful and unpredictable. We have failed miserably to develop a coordinated policy, even towards the mutual distrust between ethnic nationalities. The result has been intractable bloody ethnic and religious conflict that has torn the land and its people apart.
Bleak as this Nigerian situation may seem, things will be worse under the enclave of Biafra. So, even as dysfunctional as Nigeria is, Biafra is not the answer. We have brainwashed ourselves into believing that Nigeria cannot survive without us but have never paused to rationally think (with our heads and not our hearts) of our survival without Nigeria. We are itching to break the palm nutshell and throw away the stone, hoping that famine will not return.
A simple glitch in the production and distribution of tomatoes from the North in 2016, everyone started trembling. Yet, in the euphoria of the promise of ‘milk and honey’ in an enclave surrounded by ‘hostile’ neighbors, we have dragged ourselves into a suffocating fit of political hallucination with Biafra. We got intoxicated with the lust in the Biafran cause that all we do now is nod and wink like a puppy being caressed repeatedly in a simple single silly affair.
Let me paint a gloomy picture of the apocalypse that will set in after the silly affair is over. Three ideas, in particular, need to be rebutted. The first wrong-headed notion is that redrawing the borders of Nigeria will create more stable states that match the ethnic and religious contours of the population. But this is not true. In a country with more than 250 different ethnic nationalities, it is almost impossible to draw neat border lines since nationality can change from village to village.
Other parts of Nigeria may not have been a ‘heaven’ for Ndi Igbo, but within our “new Biafra” there will still be intra-ethnic squabbles. Some sub-ethnic groups within the “Igbo” speaking nationalities will be shocked to suddenly realize that they are not Igbos and as a matter of fact don’t speak “Igbo”. They will become the new minorities that will face ‘marginalization’ in the new Land of the Rising Sun.
Ethnic stereotyping will be targeted at these new minority groups. The Nssuka ethnic nationality and the Ebonyi-Abakiliki groups will be hit first. The ‘NwaNsukka’ and ‘UmuAbakiliki’ derogatory characterization of second and sometimes even third class Igbo citizens will resurface. How the ‘NwaNsukka’ and ‘UmuAbakaliki’ who are currently spearheading the fight for the actualization of Biafra will respond remains to be seen.
The ‘zoo’ must be destroyed! Yeah! But, we forgot about the zoos in our churches. Ask Bishop Opkalaeke about his AhiaraMbaise experience. If a man of God can be scorned and rejected in the house of God, imagine what will happen to you. Also, ask our Imo wife about the humiliation and torment she suffered at the hands of her Ndi Anambra in-laws.
We forgot about the old Imo-old Anambra cold war that will be deforested and roasted under the rising sun. The bitter fight for the Biafran presidency, the fight over oil revenue from Imo and Abia which would be used to develop Enugu, and other conflicts will cause bloodletting resembling the wars of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Whichever way you want to see it, the crisis that will follow will be complex. That’s why I strongly believe that any facile solution to the problem of Ndigbo in Nigeria is dangerous.
A second ill-advised notion is that the disarray in Nigeria is the fault of Islam and that they want to Islamize Nigeria. In our new and wonderful Biafra, you will look for the Muslims and they will be nowhere. Then, the current marginal battle between the Catholics and Anglicans will take center stage. I wonder where you will run to when they want to “Catholicize” Biafra.
The Anglican Bishop of the Niger Diocese, Anambra State, Rt. Rev. Owen Nwokolo, recently said, “There is a gross imbalance in political appointments in the state. Anglican faithful in the state are short-changed and marginalized from occupying government positions.
“It’s incumbent on the current administration in the state to strike a balance as well as adopt the principle of equity and fair play in political appointments in order not to relegate any section of the state to the background,” he added.
Does that sound familiar? Will the Anglicans agitate for the rotational presidency of the Peoples Republic of Biafra with the Catholics? If the Anglicans are complaining already, what will happen to those of us with the Holy Sabbath of Christ the King? I pity the Anglican Church. In the religious war over who becomes the governor of the states and who is appointed to which positions, you will be faced with the new reality that you are the NEW MINORITY. If you are an Anglican in Anambra, Imo or Enugu, for instance, do some background checks on the recent political history of your state and prepare for what is to come.
A third bad assumption is that the states of Rivers, Cross-River, Delta, Bayelsa and co. will be part of the new entity called Biafra. To that, I will only remind those that are deaf to the consistent utterances from leaders of these states that they will never “have anything to do with Biafra” of the Igbo proverb, “Our wife, and our wife: come midnight and we will know whose wife she really is.”
The puzzle is that we admit these three points as realities, so, why do we persist in pursuing mistaken courses? Why do we want to swallow the phlegm to appease the pangs of hunger? Why do we keep looking for “something” in the pocket of someone who is looking for something?
“Kama mmanya ga-esere ogo na ogo okwu, ya waa n’uzo” (Instead a pot of wine will breed animosity among in-laws, let it break on the way).The new Biafra as currently being agitated for is like a pot of wine that will breed animosity among brothers and friends. So, while Nigeria may be broken and dysfunctional, Biafra is not the answer.
Ekenekwa m unu.
By Churchill Okonkwo